I have caught every ‘Mission: Impossible’ film in the cinema since the franchise relaunched in 1996. While I did not have much knowledge of the source material, the first film’s cerebral take on the series and labyrinth of revelations and surprises hooked me into future installments.
Although the series took some schizophrenic turns – John Woo’s cinematic deviation in the second film being a 180 from the initial movie, and the third MI falling somewhere in the middle – it was refreshing to see the latest installment carry over the feel and tone of its predecessor.
It helps that the same production crew – JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot- are responsible for it, hand-in-hand with Tom Cruise and director Brad Bird (of ‘The Incredibles’). While the sense of continuity (in more ways than one) adds a layer for long-time fans of the film franchise, newcomers will have no trouble settling in for another rollercoaster.
‘Ghost Protocol’ makes no bones about where it stands: it is an action movie through and through, opening with an almost-pedestrian (by the series’ standards) action sequence, where we see agent Trevor Hannaway (played by ‘Lost’ alumni Josh Holloway) in possession of The Package (TM) and pursued by Enemy Agents. His subsequent near-escape and death is the first domino to fall, triggering the events of the rest of the movie.
The script smartly makes better use of Holloway’s character, providing a flashback that gives some depth to the situation Tom Cruise (as Ethan Hunt) and his IMF team find themselves in. It is one of a few spots where the script extends itself beyond the base Action Movie template.
And ‘Ghost Protocol’ is a great action movie, though you have to overlook some of the glaring flaws. The motivations for Cobalt, the rogue element which frames the IMF team for a bombing at the Kremlin, to trigger a nuclear war are, at best, undeveloped and mediocre. Cobalt himself is little more than a wafer-thin villain; there is not enough depth there to care about him as a villain other than he is able to stay a step ahead of our heroes at times.
Hannaway’s assassin, Sabine (played by Léa Seydoux), is given little else other than some quick skills with a gun, a desire for diamonds, and some tough talk. As a catalyst for some vengence-seeking by IMF agent Jane Carter (played by Paula Patton), that particular subplot goes away half-way through the film and in an unsatisfactory manner.
What works in the movie are the action sequences and the humor, even if the latter seems a little forced in spots (example: the part where Hunt and Brandt are attempting to board the train requiring authentication). But Cruise’s impromptu building climb in Dubai, the chase through the sandstorm, and the rather unique take on the battle in the parking garage are all well-done. It was refreshing to see the gadgets used by the IMF prone to fail, and some of the implausible leaps that most action movies take for granted are not quite so cleanly executed here (you’ll know the scene when you get there).
Bird is to be commended on the direction. He did an excellent job with the material, providing a slick look and keeping the franchise fresh, even as it is well into its second decade. The Dubai scenes are particularly impressive.
If you love the ‘Mission: Impossible’ movies, you will want to catch this. If you have been left unimpressed by each installment, there’s nothing really here to draw you back in. With a well-selected cast and solid direction, ‘Ghost Protocol’ may not be best entry in the series, but it is one of the most entertaining.